As junior Grant Roesner starts running, his brain begins to wake up. It activates, almost. Gears begin to turn. His mind settles.
It’s the running that focuses him. Because while Roesner is sitting in class, his mind wanders.
“If someone goes through a speech, my mind will always fall asleep. Most classes, honestly, it is asleep,” Roesner said. “The more I run, it helps my brain to stay awake.”
After being diagnosed with dyslexia in grade school, Roesner has since found that sports give him an outlet to deal with his diagnosis.
Dyslexia is “characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities,” according to the International Dyslexia Association. However, cases vary person by person, having a more significant effect on some people’s lives.
“There’s different types of it,” Roesner said. “People always think, ‘Oh, it switches around the letters.’ That’s not always the case. It’s more of a learning disability. It’s just a different way of looking at things.”
Roesner’s specific case of dyslexia makes him struggle with things like focusing on a book he’s reading or a lecture he’s supposed to be listening to. While most people find it simple to read through a book line by line, Roesner struggles to do so. His mind jumps throughout the page, reading a word that might be ten lines beneath the one he’s supposed to be reading.
“I’ll be reading, and I’ll say a word that’s, like, down here,” Roesner said, pointing to the bottom what would be the page of a book. ”And I’m like, ‘How?’ I didn’t even see that word, but it was magically there.”
Roesner didn’t know he was dyslexic all throughout grade school. All he knew was that whenever he tried to read a book, his brain would wander. Doctors initially prescribed him ADHD and ADD medications, which didn’t work, and he eventually went off of them. Finally, he watched a documentary about dyslexic kids and was nearly in tears at how much he connected with them. This led him to get an actual diagnosis, but just because he had been diagnosed didn’t mean reading and school got any easier.
“I honestly was kind of like ‘Screw my life,’” Roesner said. “I was like, well this is how my life’s going to be. It’s not going to get better. I was thinking I’m not going to be successful, I’m not going to be able to do anything.”
Sports woke him up – both his mind and his realization that a place existed where he could be successful. So they engulfed his life. Soccer in the fall. Basketball during the winter. Track and baseball were his summer and spring sports. After-school practices and weekend games filled his schedule.
This emphasis on sports has continued throughout high school. But before the end of sophomore year, Roesner’s priorities had always been equally split between all his sports. At the end of last year’s track season, that changed.
“He saw what successful kids were doing and he wanted to be a part of that,” track coach David Pennington said. “He had to work year round to get it done. And he’s done it.”
His hard work has shown. Roesner, who runs the 400-meter dash, dropped nearly two seconds from sophomore year to junior year, to a 51 second personal record. And a two second drop is by no means as insignificant as it sounds.
“It’s a lot,” Roesner said. “[In the 400], once a year you’ll drop two seconds if you really push yourself.”
At the end of his sophomore year, Roesner began to take to the level that got him where he is today. Year-round training – untimed, longer runs in the fall, lifting weights, core work and agility drills – all prepared Roesner for the spring season, according to Pennington. This year, he’s 17th in the state and seventh in league.
“Honestly, he never complains about a workout; he never complains about anything,” Pennington said. “He just asks what he can do to get better and he does it.”
Success in track allowed Roesner to see where hard work and dedication got him, letting him put those learned skills elsewhere – like school.
“Nobody wants to struggle in school and nobody wants to be the kid who has to work extra hard at it,” Pennington said. “And so when you’re successful at [track], you can start to see that you can work hard enough at one and be successful, and you can work hard enough at the other and be successful.”
His teammate, senior Jack Dunfield, thinks that Roesner’s drop in time came from an increase in confidence and the realization that he could be successful – even in running track after high school.
“Your freshman and sophomore years are kind of your building years, where you’re figuring out what you can do,” Dunfield said. “And then end of sophomore [year]… I think he consider[ed] running track in college.”
As Roesner’s success builds, he’s looking to place at districts and then state later this year. He wants to drop one more second off of his time, which Pennington thinks is possible. All the while, he’ll be awake, awake in a way that he can only experience while running.